Doing Nothing Can Make You More Productive

Published March 20, 2024, in The thoughtLEADERS Brief on LinkedIn.

I’ve been dreading writing this post. Massive writer’s block. “I have nothing to say,” says the tired little voice in my head (no comments from the peanut gallery).

I proceeded to give the example of how I was freaking about not getting this post written, and how it wasn’t as critical as I was making it out to be in my mind. My client then pulled a logic ninja move and said, “So why don’t you let it slip and focus on getting more pressing things done, or take a break to catch your breath?”



I know that taking better care of oneself and prioritizing are critical components of high performance. I know the better we prioritize and manage stress, the more resilient we are. (Heck, we teach these things in our Building Resilience course—which might be just right for you and your organization if you folks are suffering some of these symptoms.)

Go pick something to not do and see if the world falls apart. I’ll bet it won’t.

The client was bemoaning not having enough time to do everything. Too many meetings, calls, projects, and crises were consuming all available free time. It was getting harder and harder to recover because they were getting deeper and deeper into burnout each time they tried to take a break.

Sometimes the key to getting a lot done is to actually do nothing at all.

My day today has been packed with meetings and calls. I’ve been silently freaking out about this article being later and later. And then inspiration hit while on a call with a client.

Normally, I write on Sundays. Writing is relaxing for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any writing done yesterday because it was gorgeous outside. I spent the entire day outdoors. Trimming hedges. Getting a sunburn.

I had just been handed a healthy dose of my own medicine (which I strongly advocate taking from time to time).

Then I made the fateful comment. “Sometimes you just gotta let things slip. You have to fail on the less important things. You just need to let them go occasionally.”

Hm… I think I just ruptured the fabric of the universe with that “logic.” So on that note, I’m gonna let this post slip. I’m not going to spend a bunch of time editing it. I won’t sit here for an hour thinking up a great action plan for my readers to take away. Nope. Just gonna stop writing, let it slip, and move on to some critical tasks I have to complete before I grab a beer and enjoy some sun on my patio.

Then the twisted part happened. “I know! I’ll write my post about not writing my post, and how I shouldn’t write the post and just let it slip!”

My logic was that we all get so consumed with tackling everything on our plate that time for ourselves eventually disappears. My theory was that letting things that only seem important slip and possibly never get done is a key to getting more “real” work done. By not getting caught up by every little thing, we should have more time and energy to dedicate to more important matters.

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